Interview with Zach Wilcha, Independence Business Alliance, Greater Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce

For many leaders in business, personal brand is often forgotten in favor of a company’s own brand. However, there’s a connection between the two that leaders need to learn and take advantage of.

This interview on personal brand is with Zach Wilcha, the Executive Director for the Independence Business Alliance, Greater Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce.

How do you define your personal brand?

I’ve heard somewhere that a personal brand is the story people tell about you when you’re not in the room. I guess for me, at its best, it’s the way I publicly announce, articulate, and interrogate myself and how I move about the world. 

I can’t tell you how my brand lands in the eyes, ears, and hearts of others, but in real life and online I try to educate people about serious things without being too self-serious. I aim to be authentic with some wit and deadpan humor. I think I’m direct, driven, and supportive. I’m pretty intentional about what I share; the law school survivor in me is always building a case. Whether it’s a conversation online or in person, you’d see I’m passionate about advocacy, social justice, books, politics, television/movies, and ways to improve our communities, and I convey all of this with a gay twist and focus. 

What is the relationship between your personal brand and your organization’s brand?

I’m so lucky that at the moment I get to be gay for a living! My job as the Executive Director of an LGBTQ+-focused organization allows me to lead with my identity, and it’s not something I take for granted. My organization helps LGBTQ+-owned businesses and employees be successful while self-authenticating. Our organization specializes in making personal connections and networking, and those are things I love to do outside of my job, so it’s been a good fit for any brand I’m inhabiting. 

I’m sometimes a bit nervous about expressing personal opinions that might be divisive, but what I’ve learned as a leader in the LGBTQ+ community is that people are drawn to leaders who are genuine and who speak from the heart. I think that my organization’s brand has expanded into more inclusive and exciting directions as I’ve become more authentic and vocal in my own personal brand.   

Can you tell us about your journey to identify and develop your personal brand?  Did you have to overcome any fears, concerns, or challenges?

I think that my personal brand, like me, is in a constant state of maturation, particularly when it comes to queerness. For anyone who was once closeted, I think there’s the instinct that you have to prove that your queerness isn’t the only interesting or important thing about you. But over the years, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that my gayness probably is the most important thing about me, and I’m not afraid to let people know that. It’s vital part of who I am and what has helped me achieve anything. It’s made me more sensitive to prejudice and discrimination of others and the struggles they face. It’s made me more open-minded and empathetic. It’s made me work harder to prove myself – because I’ve often had to. Viewing life through a gay prism has made me more knowledgeable about people and power. 

I think for a lot of LGBTQ+ folks, there’s an ever-present pressure to represent the larger community, and for me it’s been no different. I know that I mention the struggles (and joys!) that LGBTQ+ encounter quite a bit, but I often think about how on some social media platforms I’m one of the only gay people, if not the only gay person, some of the people I grew up with know or follow. In that case, I do feel the pressure to educate. I don’t want to be a nag, but maybe that’s just a part of my brand too. 

I’m old enough to have been deeply social in a world without social media, so I didn’t feel a ton of pressure in the early years of my career to cultivate or develop a brand. That said, it’s been pretty organic for my brand to evolve as I do. 

What have you found are the most effective ways to promote your personal brand or thought leadership?

Another way that my professional and personal brands are aligned is that I’m often lucky, as part of my job, to be invited to speak to folks about a number of different subjects like equality and inclusion. I’m always happy to chat with folks, whether it be in an educational or personal capacity. I used to write articles quite a bit, and that’s something I’d like to get back into. Otherwise, you can find me posting on Twitter and Facebook, trying to engage folks in conversation about the things I love the most or nudging people I disagree with in different directions.

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